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February 27, 2009

Lenten Thoughts: Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness, Part Two

I think one of the most challenging verses in all of Scripture to me is James 4:17. He writes, “Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” It’s such a simple, straightforward statement. But it reaches out so far.

“Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” We hesitate, rationalize and equivocate. He tells us plainly.

I think it’s easy enough to pat ourselves on the back when we’ve swallowed down the words that we shouldn’t say, when we’ve wrestled our selfish thoughts to the ground, but this? Oh, it’s so hard.

It reminds me what a huge gap there is between me and the perfect standard God requires. I have committed sins. But I have also omitted goodness. I have neglected the words of praise someone needed; I’ve idled away my talents; I’ve not been generous when God has prompted.

I think in our day and age, we want to shrug and laugh it off.  But there is a time for sobriety. And in this same passage where James states this so plainly, he also tells us how we should treat our sins of commission and omission: “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

It’s the picture of repentance, true repentance. And it’s a good place to begin before we ever come close to thinking about the wrongs others have done to us.

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